The Estonian president has suggested that Kaja Kallas should have resigned over the scandal, while lawmakers have demanded her financial records
Estonian President Alar Karis has said Prime Minister Kaja Kallas should immediately have stepped down over the scandal surrounding her husband’s alleged Russian business interests. Kallas has branded parliamentary scrutiny into her family’s finances a political “witch hunt.”
Kallas, who is a vocal critic of Moscow, has faced intense criticism since the media revealed last month that her husband, Arvo Hallik, had a 25% stake in a logistics company that provides services in Russia.
“Personally, I would have liked it if the prime minister had resigned at the beginning of the series of events that has made her the focus of the crisis,” Estonian President Karis, whose office is largely ceremonial, said on Monday after Kallas appeared before a parliamentary committee.
“It would have spared her, her loved ones, the effectiveness of the government, and the credibility of messages coming out of Estonia,” he added.
Kallas has denied any wrongdoing and has rejected calls to leave office. Hearings conducted by the Anti-Corruption Select Committee, whose members came out of parliamentary recess to question the prime minister, focused on whether she may have been compromised through her husband’s business interests.
The prime minister reported loans of €372,000 ($400,000) to Hallik’s consultancy firm in the past two years. MPs demanded to know where the money had come from and whether income generated by the loans had originated in Russia.
Kallas claimed that the money had come from savings she had built up before her political career, when her income as a lawyer in the private sector was significantly higher than her current salary.
She insisted that she had not been aware of the details of her husband’s business before the media reports emerged, and claimed that critics were mischaracterizing it as “Russian.” Kallas added that the services were provided to an Estonian firm that is winding down its operations in Russia.
At the request of lawmakers, Kallas pledged to share details of the loans with the committee, but hit out at her critics.
“The witch hunt for me, unleashed by the opposition regarding the activities of my husband’s business partner, has exceeded all tolerable limits,” the prime minister declared.
Discussing the public outcry in an interview with broadcaster ERR last week, Kallas suggested that in Estonia “moral standards are much higher than in most countries.”